‘Efficiency geek’ to start-up guru: Meet Stefano Maifreni, founder of Eggcelerate | TopMBA.com

‘Efficiency geek’ to start-up guru: Meet Stefano Maifreni, founder of Eggcelerate

By Katie S

Updated November 11, 2021 Updated November 11, 2021

Stefano Maifreni is the founder and CEO of Eggcelerate, a company that specialises in supporting the growth of small to medium British and Italian enterprises (SMEs). In particular, they focus on international aspirations, managing growth, streamlining operations and improving cash flow.  

First studying engineering, Maifreni moved into product management then senior manager roles at global blue-chip companies. His main background is business-to-business tech where he pioneered the Software as a Service model.  

Being an entrepreneurial and data-driven “efficiency geek”, in 2014 Maifreni decided to follow his passion of helping small, business-focused tech enterprises and founded Eggcelerate. It has allowed him to work closely with growing companies and start-ups in technology-intensive and innovative industries. “Coming from a corporation, I always felt like a drop in the ocean, while in small businesses you can impact whatever you do.” 

How did you find your business idea?  

A successful business idea involves finding something you’re passionate about. For Maifreni, that was focusing on small businesses and the challenges they face. “Running an SME or a start-up brings unique challenges. Your world moves fast, and resources such as time, skills and people are always scarce. A butterfly flaps its wings in sales, and a tornado sweeps your operations.” 

Maifreni noticed the difficulties faced by small businesses and start-ups, in particular the need for specialised skills and knowledge, and knew how these problems could be fixed. “Our ambition is to bridge a cultural and knowledge gap that, at times, looks insurmountable.” 

What are the key ways to expand a business? 

Maifreni’s advice is to “replace the company masterplans with what I call ‘strategy-as-you-go’. It's a strategic approach that adapts continuously and isn't afraid of being incomplete.” This involves first setting the commercial direction of your business to clarify your vision, mission and values (not a simple task) and then, rather than specifying in detail how to execute your strategy, you find out through trial-and-error and adapt accordingly.  

For this to be effective, it needs to be part of everyday business life. Businesses need to keep fine-tuning to stay ahead of the game. As Maifreni says, “the world doesn't stand still long enough to lock ourselves in a room for a day and decide what'll happen over the next 12 months. New technologies will quickly reshape business dynamics, customer expectations will evolve and new competitors will emerge.” 

Strategy-as-you-go needs to be data-led with clear accountability and reporting against key performance indicators. That’s the way to sustainable, long-term growth. Maifreni is keen to point out that a “strategy-as-you-go approach doesn't mean do-anything-you-like”.  

Why is strategic growth so important?  

After the early 2000s, Maifreni learned to “achieve growth with scarce resources”. However, he points out that there’s “no silver bullet, unfortunately!” Every enterprise needs a unique approach that identifies their key areas of growth.  

One particular example of a client that grew quickly into a fast-moving global player was a small enterprise selling only in Italy. Their CEO recognised that they needed to sell worldwide, but that expansion was also “more than simply winning international orders”.  

They re-branded, launched a new website in six languages and pitched to prospects worldwide. Revenue grew by 40 percent, a sales pipeline of €350,000 took shape within two months and they achieved a 10 percent gross margin increase across global sales. But what key changes led to this impressive global growth?  

  1. They updated their go-to-market strategy, so any new products were brought to market in a way that focused on customer benefits rather than product features.  

  1. The company introduced customer relationship software and management tools to ensure a positive customer experience despite surging demand in multiple countries.  

  1. Extensive tracking and reporting meant they wouldn’t become a victim of their own success. Instead, problems were spotted and fixed early.  

  1. They updated their vision, mission and values as well as translated these into clear objectives to help everyone stay focused on the tasks ahead.  

What is your advice for entrepreneurs?  

“If you don't feel you have clear ideas or a runaway career trajectory… you're like most in your cohort!”  

Maifreni advises budding entrepreneurs to look at what other people have done, especially learning from their failures. Surround yourself with people you admire who are able to mentor and coach you towards success. Define what that success means for you.  

According to Maifreni, there is more to becoming a leader than the skills employers are keen to see. “Inclusivity will play a crucial role in 2022 as a skill that will separate true leaders. This means the ability to understand and accept people for what they are.” 

Leaders need to be able to facilitate their employees to work at their best. “From a business perspective, it means leveraging [employees’] strengths to make them perform. From a human and team perspective, it means making everyone feel accepted for their uniqueness and diversity, being supportive of each team member, creating a sense of trust and giving people more control over how they do their work, building great relationships in and outside the team - thus fostering team building and employee engagement.” 

Maifreni’s top three pieces of advice are:  

  1. Be fair and take time for yourself 

  1. Build a reliable ecosystem you can rely on 

  1. Focus on your objectives  

“If I had to change something with the benefit of hindsight, I would have started my business earlier, as I spent too much time in my comfort zone. I would probably be fairer to myself and take more ‘me time’ on the entrepreneurial experience.” 

What value did you find in your MBA?  

Maifreni started his MBA with a very clear ambition, to become chief marketing officer for a telecom company - something which he “finds boring today!” Doing an MBA meant being exposed to new things, “your ideas get challenged from the very start”. By adapting his MBA curriculum to suit his interests, entrepreneurship and strategy, he was able to find real value in his education that has applications for his work today. 

Maifreni began to test his proposition by working on a trial basis with a friend’s small family business. It wasn’t until two life impacting events, the joyful birth of his daughter and the sorrow of a friend suddenly passing away, that he took the plunge to focus on his business full-time. That original family business is now his largest client.  

“The MBA was a catalyst of this change; it helped with the thought process throughout the journey and gave me the confidence to make that jump.” 

This article was originally published in November 2021 .

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